On the Clock: Ball State University Libraries workers learn patience, problem-solving skills

<p>At the end of each day before Bracken Library was closed March 21 due to COVID-19, Noelle Robinson would go through a typical routine of closing procedures which included wiping down scanners, shutting down computers and letting visitors know the library was closing. Brooke Kemp, DN</p>

At the end of each day before Bracken Library was closed March 21 due to COVID-19, Noelle Robinson would go through a typical routine of closing procedures which included wiping down scanners, shutting down computers and letting visitors know the library was closing. Brooke Kemp, DN

Editor's note: “On the clock” is a Ball State Daily News series profiling Ball State students and their on-campus jobs. If you have any suggestions as to who we should feature next, send an email to features@bsudailynews.com. 

From the Information Services Desk at Bracken Library, Noelle Robinson, junior applied behavior analysis major, enjoys watching the hustle and bustle of students, professors and other Bracken Library visitors. 

Robinson works three days a week answering a variety of questions, but one she gets asked the most is, “Where can I find this book?”

“I enjoy helping and interacting with students,” Robinson said. “I also enjoy learning about different resources in the library and how we can help students academically.” 

When Robinson was a freshman, she said, she decided she needed a job, so she applied to work at the Information Services Desk at Bracken. After three years, Robinson said, she has developed life skills, such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving and leadership. 

Before Bracken closed its doors due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, a typical workday for Robinson included answering general, troubleshooting and research questions from students, faculty and community members. Throughout the school year, she also helps students find sources using the online databases. 

“We have to know the ins and outs of the library, even the departments we aren’t familiar with, like Interlibrary loan,” Robinson said. “We have to familiarize ourselves with everything just in case because you never know what questions you’re going to get. We are kind of like the general-questions area, the first people students run to, so we have to know a little about everything.” 

While she is not currently working at the library, Robinson said she plans to return to work at Bracken in fall 2020. 

“It is actually very unfortunate being as though I am going to go weeks without work,” Robinson said. “However, I understand it is for my health and safety, and for that, I can't be too upset about it.”

When Robinson wants to get away from worries in her academic, work or personal life, she said, she turns to reading self-help books, nonfiction books and autobiographies to relieve stress. Robinson said she also enjoys studying on the upper level of Bracken, particularly the fourth floor. 

“It is one of my favorite places to get work done,” Robinson said. “Overall, it is dead silent up there [on the fourth floor], so it is the best place to go if you are one of those that prefer complete silence.”

Robinson said her biggest takeaway from her experience working at Bracken is to not be afraid to ask for help when browsing the library's unlimited resources. 

“Before working here, I was always the one that was intimidated to ask for help, especially when it came to an academic project,” Robinson said. “There are so many resources that we offer here that a lot of students don’t know about.” 

Archives and Special Collections

One floor above Robinson, first-year graduate student Lucas Cauley works at Bracken Library’s Archives and Special Collections, starting at 9 a.m. each morning processing the Ball State University Archives, his favorite of Bracken’s five collections. 

“It can be hectic at times — we go through phases, so there will be some days where we don’t have very many coming in,” Cauley said. “Other days, it is just packed. We do a lot of classroom instruction, so our staff members will go teach in classrooms, or classes will come up for presentations in the Archives. Sporadic would be a good way to describe it.”

No matter if days are busy or calm, Cauley said he is interested in hearing about all of the different research interests and projects from those who visit the Archives and Special Collections. 

“Sometimes, we get people that are doing community presentations at local libraries that come in and want to research things,” Cauley said. “A lot of professors will come in and pull unique materials to publications they’re working on. So, I like to see the diversity in what people are looking at.”

Cauley first started working in the Archives and Special Collections as an intern in January 2019 until he became a student employee in August 2019. With a concentration in public history, Cauley had to complete a Capstone project to finish his degree and decided the Archives and Special Collections were a good fit for him on campus. 

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Cauley and other graduate assistants in the Archives and Special Collections are able to telework from their homes. Cauley plans to continue working in the Archives and Special Collections through the summer and possibly next school year, he said. 

From working in the Archives and Special Collections, Cauley said, he has learned paying attention to details and patience from his tedious work. 

“I would not call myself a patient man, so that is something I have had to work on,” Cauley said. “When you are working with the public, giving information to the public, curating an exhibit for the public ... you are doing it for them. You need to be sure that they like it and that it is also historically accurate.”

In Cauley’s spare time, he enjoys reading classics, and he even helped start a book club within the Archives and Special Collections that allowed his coworkers to get hooked on classic novels as well. His personal favorite is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

“There’s a certain feeling of community there,” Cauley said. “Even though I am a student assistant and they are full-time staff members, they don’t make me feel that way. I feel like I am a full-time co-worker of theirs.” 

Science Library

When Shiloh Schwenk, senior chemistry major, came across a job advertisement seeking employees for the Science Library in Cooper Science Complex, they said, they jumped at the opportunity to work at a relaxed, focused, central location where they would be interacting with their peers and professors. 

“I really love seeing everybody and seeing how diverse the STEM programs are,” Schwenk said. “We have so many different people that come in and ask for help with finding books, or printing or circulation questions in general. I’m really glad to be there to help all those people.”

Schwenk started working at the Science Library in Cooper during summer 2019, where they spent a majority of their time transferring books from the Science Library to the Health Library in order to get the new Health Professions Building ready for the new semester. 

Depending on the shift, science library employees like Schwenk have different responsibilities, such as helping visitors with printer problems, Interlibrary loans and circulation. Before working in the libraries, Schwenk said, they were unaware of the wide network Ball State has for academics to do research, such as how students can check out a book from Bracken Library online and pick it up in the Science Library. 

The real-life experience Schwenk is gaining from working in the Science Library is the most important aspect of the job, they said, because they want to go into the field after graduating. Additionally, communication is another vital skill Schwenk said they have learned throughout their experience, as they are constantly communicating with their boss and coworkers. 

“I like seeing behind the scenes of how much we do with all of the other academic institutions on campus,” Schwenk said. “In addition to that, I really love being that central hub — the idea of everyone comes through the Science Library. If you need to print something in Cooper, that’s where you are going to go. So, I see my teachers and peers — it’s a really cool position to be in.” 

Contact Taylor Marshall with comments at tamarshall3@bsu.edu.  

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